MCI scales back on its 'Wild West' ad tie-ins

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MCI WorldCom is trimming its planned media spending for one of its major entertainment-marketing deals, as well as making cutbacks in other TV venues.

For its upcoming tie-in with Warner Bros.' big summer movie, "Wild Wild West," MCI has slashed its advertising plans by more than half, according to executives, with media support of just $3 million, down from about $7 million to $10 million.

Details of the MCI promotion are yet to be announced.

PART OF $100 MIL DEAL

Last September, MCI and Time Warner struck a long-term, $100 million marketing deal, which gives the telecommunications giant access to a number of entertainment properties. The new movie, based on the 1960s TV series, stars Will Smith and Kevin Kline and debuts July 2.

In addition to MCI, Warner has signed as partners Burger King Corp., Dreyer's Ice Cream and Amoco Corp.

Executives close to the situation said MCI's cutback wasn't the result of rumored troubles surrounding the making of the film, but internal marketing cutbacks by the telco. An MCI spokesman declined to discuss that.

Warner Bros. isn't too con-cerned, according to executives. TheMCI top tie-in partner is Burger King, which will spend some $25 million in media for its tie-in promotions with the movie.

Executives said the MCI cutback in no way affects the long-term agreement between the two.

The most visible part of the MCI WorldCom/Warner Bros. deal has been the telco's use of Looney Tunes characters in its TV commercials.

Last week, TV syndicators said MCI WorldCom had cut a substantial amount from its syndication buys in the upfront market--possibly as much as half.

In 1998, MCI WorldCom spent $155 million in TV syndication, according to Competitive Media Reporting, a substantial increase from the $46 million it spent the year before.

Contributing: Beth Snyder

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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